Yes Virginia, Holocaust deniers still exist and run for Congress
The significance of meeting a Holocaust survivor while on my way to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, is not lost on me – but that’s what happened to me two weeks ago. While leading a trip in Israel, I made a quick stop off to visit a friend who was in a Jerusalem hospital just down the road from Yad Vashem, and when raindrops started to fall, I decided to hop a cab to meet up with the rest of my group.
My elderly cab driver’s name was Moshe, and the Israeli woman who helped me flag him down told him he wasn’t allowed to charge me more than 22 shekels (about $5) for the ride. He kindly abided her instructions and started our drive to the Yad Vashem. “Why are you going there?” he asked me in his broken English, and I explained that I was leading a trip of 37 Americans and Canadians throughout Israel, stopping at important sites along the way. He asked more questions, and our conversation stayed mostly on the surface – until we pulled into the drop-off point outside the memorial.
“I’m a survivor,” Moshe confided in me. “I lost my whole family in the Holocaust, so I moved to Israel.” He shook my hand and looked into my eyes and thanked me for bringing my group from across the ocean to Yad Vashem to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust – and then he drove away, leaving me to swallow my tears and rejoin my group in learning about those who weren’t as lucky as Moshe.
Today, I read that a Congressional candidate in Illinois’ 3rd District thinks Moshe is a liar.
Art Jones is a 64-year-old Neo-Nazi who says the Holocaust never happened. "As far as I'm concerned, the Holocaust is nothing more than an international extortion racket by the Jews," Jones told his local media outlet. "It's the blackest lie in history. Millions of dollars are being made by Jews telling this tale of woe and misfortune in books, movies, plays and TV."
Jones, who self-identifies as a National Socialist, has been arrested a few times for fist-fighting with liberals, including the time a Black Panther punched him in the face on The Jerry Springer Show. He’s so fond of Adolf Hitler that he marches in Nazi rallies and holds annual birthday parties to remember and honor the fuehrer, complete with a bit of Confederate pride: Last year’s birthday cake read “The South was right. White men must fight.” Of course, as expected, Jones is fond of unabashedly spouting off some of the most shocking and offensive anti-Semitic rhetoric in today’s public sphere. In fact, as the national chairman of the America First Committee, which he describes as a white patriotic nationalist organization, he is expected to do so.
“The Holocaust is the greatest overblown non-event in history,” he said on a talk show in 1992. When host Faith Daniels asked how he explained the millions of lives lost, Jones responded simply: “Poppycock.” Two years later, he told the Chicago Reader, "As a group, Jews are the most dangerous, subversive, treacherous, sick-minded people on the face of the earth, overall. They're communists and con artists.” In the same interview, he explained what he would do with American Jews if he ran the country: ship us out of it if we were lucky, murder us if we weren’t.
After meeting Moshe, touring Yad Vashem, and wiping away tears as I pored over the stories of just a few of the six million Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust, I was stunned to read this week’s headlines detailing Jones’ beliefs. That such people still exist, even in today’s politically divided society, came as a shock to me, and I teared up reading story after story about Jones, wondering how a man like this could ever be given a platform from which to speak publicly about his hatred. Lest I think it was just my bleeding heart who felt disgusted by neo-Nazis' anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic views, an old friend of mine who identifies as a Tea Partier called Jones and his ilk “pure evil.”
The good news is that Jones has little chance of being elected to anything, much less Congress. He’s run for the position before and lost, once garnering 3% of the vote (though he claimed it was due to “vote fraud” that he did so poorly). Jones claims that his agenda is one that “most white people – and for that matter, most Americans – feel strongly about,” Illinois voters continue to prove him wrong. Moshe and the Jewish people are counting on them to do it again this year.